County-Level Trends in Foreign Investment
More than 350 foreign-owned firms have moved into the state over the past 15 years.
by Steven G. Livingston | 1 | 2 | 3
Foreign investment has been a major factor in this state's economic development. It's not too much to say that it has transformed Tennessee's economy. The impact of the automotive industry comes to mind, but it is just one example. More than 350 foreign-owned firms have moved into the state over the past 15 years. At right we survey county-level trends in that investment.
As we can see, a ranking of the counties with the most foreign-owned firms has not changed much in recent years. In spite of its rapid rise, foreign investment has been concentrated. In both 1995 and 2010, half of the foreign firms were found in just five counties.
Of course, the size of this investment is influenced by the economic size of the county. We can measure the number of foreign-owned firms compared to a county's total number of manufacturing firms to correct for this. This perhaps better weights the impact of the investment on a county.
The large majority of foreign-investment-intensive counties are in middle and east Tennessee. The map below displays all 95 counties on this dimension for 2010. It shows that foreign investment is concentrated in the outer belt of counties around Nashville (mostly automotive related), the I-75 corridor, and the Morristown (Hamblen) – Johnson City (Washington) region of East Tennessee. We can also see sizable areas of the state that have attracted no foreign investment, mostly in rural west and northwest Tennessee and on the upper Cumberland plateau.